Changes in ‘Newtown’

by Maurice Cunningham

In common with most, if not all other parts of rural Ireland, things haven’t been at a standstill in Moyvane during my lifetime. Now it’s quite a few days since I celebrated my thirtieth birthday but still I should not be a pensioner until well into the next millenium. From that infomation the reader will have definitely categorized me as neither young nor old and will have a good, rough idea of the period in the history of Moyvane about which I intend to write a few lines.

When one thinks about any parish, cetain, things about that Parish will quite readily spring to mind. When, from my exile here in Newcastlewest, I think about Moyvane, my native parish, the things that constantly come before me would be, farming in the parish, education, leisure-time pusuits of its people, work of the people and, of couse, “Religion”.

Now, farming is the livelihood of well more than half the people of the parish and almost all the farmers are engaged in dairy faming. In my early years I can very vividly recall the village really coming to life each moning at a very ealy hour with the ‘Whitegold’ of the surrounding countyside being ferried by horse, cart and more often donkey and cart to Newtownsandes Co-Op. Dairy Creamey.

It was quite fascinating to see the milk being brought from the various parts of the parish – to watch the donkeys, mules, ponies and the horses come in from the various entry roads and converge in the village by forming a long line, known as the “Range” which begun, needless to say at the creamey gate and which I often saw finish in front of Holly’s shop. I can still see that “Range” without a solitary tractor.

The biggest farmers of the day brought their milk in 6 20-gallon (not litre) containers. I would say that in 1950 there would have been about six such farmers in the parish. If all the milk being brought to the creamery today was being brought in similar-sized containers, well I would estimate that there would be about 60 such farmers.

Now, going to the creamery in those ‘far-off’ days was, as you may well imagine, quite a time-consuming job and so I suppose that would be a good part of the reason why it was the servant girl, farmers’ daughter or perhaps the old man of the house who got the job.  One rarely if ever saw two or there (if there was a break down at the creamery – the whole day maybe) hours of a good workman’s time “wasted” by his being “out” at the creamery, (cramery). While in the “Range” the time would be passed away by telling jokes, exchanging news, practical joking such as the ‘stealing’ of a tank cover or perhaps reading the paper – all fine ways of passing the time as long as the morning was dry and not so cold.

At present there would be in the region of 18,000 gallons per day (May-June) brought to the creamery; contrast that with the 5,000 gallons of 1950 and you will get a good picture of the progress of the Moyvane Dairy fame. Much of today’s milk is brought to creamery in gleaming stainless-steel churns out of which the milk is taken by a sucker (soaker) – thus speeding up the whole milk collecting process.

The donkeys, mules, ponies and horses going to the creamery are getting fewer and fewer at a rapid rate and I can foresee the day (and that not far-away either) when not a litre of milk will be brought to the creamery except by car or tractor. So much for progress! Almost every farmer took home some ‘sour’ milk with him, the amount varying with the need. It was used mostly in the making of bread and for feeding calves. Talking of ‘sour’ milk, looking back on it now I’d honestly say that sometimes during the summer, some of the milk coming to the creamery was far sourer than the stuff going home. Anyway in those carefree and less health-conscious times, ‘twould take more than sour milk to upset people (either in mind or body). People used to have constitutions in those times and I’m not talking about written ones either!

Now I would like to say a few words about education in the parish. When I started school in Moyvane in the forties (anyone guessing my age at this stage has the ten years of the forties to play around with) the school was divided into a boys’ and a girls’ school, or rather, there was a boys’ and a girls’ school, entirely separate, but in the one enclosure. There were three teachers in each school. I have very happy memories of those early years in school because, I believe and now appreciate, I was being introduced to the wide world of education by the late Ms. “Babe” O’Callaghan, a professional handler of children in their early school years. I cannot recall a single, unpleasant moment while in low infants, high infants or first class – the three classes which she taught. Anyway, good times didn’t last and so I graduated to 2nd class, taught at the time, along with 3rd and 4th class by – yes, some of you have it – a highly talented and dedicated teacher – Cormac O’Leary, still happily with us and as talented and dedicated as ever. And then for the last lap, a lap that had for finishing line, the Bishop and the Primary Cert. It was a pity that the last two years in primary school in those days had to be overshadowed by, on the one hand a catechism examination which determined your suitability (or otherwise) for Confirmation and on the other hand the infamous Primary Cert which imposed great and unwanted pressures on teacher and pupil alike. However, in spite of those pressures in 5th and 6th class then, I am very glad to be able to elate that Tom O’Callaghan, even though retired on pension, for well nigh ten years, is still as sprightly as I can ever recall him. I often think it was a great pity that a man as obviously well-read as Tom had to work to the restrictions imposed on him by a very limited curriculum. Thankfully, that narrow curriculum is, like history, all in the past and with the broader one which has replaced it, teachers are now free to make their own time and the childrens’ time in school a much more fulfilling and indeed enjoyable experience. Good riddance to the —– well, I won’t finish it!

In Moyvane today all the pupils are being schooled in a new mixed school which is much brighter, warmer and more pleasant generally than the one it replaced.

The biggest changes as regards Sunday Mass in Moyvane fom my younger days, are firstly – the fact that the priest now faces the people and says the Mass in English and secondly – the fact that the vast majority of worshippers now come to Mass by car. I can clearly recall there being not a single motorcar visible on the streets of Moyvane on a Sunday morning nor indeed on any other morning either.

Football is still “the game” in Moyvane as it has been as long as I can remember. The footballers of today are quite fortunate in having a first-class, all-weather pitch in which to play and practice, likewise the spectators who can now enjoy the game from the vantage point of a fist-rate, covered-in stand.

The most gratifying aspect of “Life” in Moyvane at the moment is the availability of work to its people at home. Up to a few short years ago, year in year out, there was a constant flow of young men and women out of the parish. There are few people in the parish today who haven’t relations in either: London, Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Leeds or Liverpool. Likewise in all the great cities of America, one can easily meet great old Moyvane names like: Mulvihill, O’Connor, Walsh etc. Even though the vast majority of them were a credit to the land of their birth I believe it was sad that they ever had to go of necessity, it’s good to see that the number of Christmas cards from dear ones is with the passing of the years, becoming smaller and smaller.